April 29, 2015

Contact: Dan Weber

(202) 225-8699

Edwards Testifies in Support of Clean Water Protection

Washington, D.C. – Congresswoman Donna F. Edwards (MD-4) spoke today in the House Rules Committee in opposition to H.R. 1732, the Regulatory Integrity Protection Act, and asked that her amendment be considered on the House floor. H.R. 1732 would halt the current Clean Water Protection rulemaking process by requiring the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw the proposed rule and restart the entire process. Congresswoman Edwards’ amendment is intended to serve as a backstop by listing policy provisions that the Secretary and Administrator are prohibited from including in a final rule that are based on concerns expressed by opponents of the rulemaking.

Below are her remarks as prepared for delivery:

“Thank you Chairman Sessions, Ranking Member Slaughter, and members of the Rules Committee. As a member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I will detail Democratic opposition to the so-called Regulatory Integrity Protection Act and explain why I have offered an amendment.

“My colleagues, this rulemaking is about clean water. Thanks to the Clean Water Act (CWA), billions of pounds of pollution have been kept out of our rivers and the number of waters that meet clean water goals nationwide has doubled – with direct benefits for drinking water, public health, recreation, and wildlife.This is especially true for Maryland within the five-state Chesapeake Bay Watershed and several of its tributaries, including the Anacostia, Patuxent, Potomac, and Severn Rivers that flow through the Fourth Congressional District. This Chesapeake Bay Watershed is fed by 110,000 miles of creeks, rivers, and streams. 70% of Marylanders get their drinking water from sources that rely on headwater or seasonal streams. Nationwide, 117 million get their water from these waters.

“However, due to two Supreme Court decisions, there is widespread confusion as to what falls under the protection of the CWA. That is why this Administration is working to finalize their joint proposed rule clarifying the limits of federal jurisdiction under the Act. This is precisely what the Supreme Court instructed the federal government to do – 14 years ago with the 2001 SWANCC decision and subsequently in the 2006 Rapanos case.

“Along with those two Supreme Court decisions, the Bush administration followed the exact same process in issuing two guidance documents in 2003 and 2008 which, coincidentally, remain in force today. In fact, it is these two Bush-era guidance documents that have compounded the confusion, uncertainty, and increased compliance costs faced by our constituents – opponents and proponents – who just want clarity.

“But don’t take my word on this. Let me quote from some of the comments made in opposition to the Bush-era guidance. According to the American Farm Bureau Federation:

‘With no clear regulatory definitions to guide their determinations, what has emerged is a hodgepodge of ad hoc and inconsistent jurisdictional theories.’

H.R. 1732

“H.R. 1732 would halt the current Clean Water rulemaking, and require the agencies to withdraw the proposed rule and restart the rulemaking process. This is after one million public comments, a 208 day comment period, and over 400 public hearings. On April 6, 2015, the EPA and the Corps forwarded a revised rule based on concerns expressed to the Office of Management and Budget for review.

“The bill would only force the agencies to meet with the same group of stakeholders and talk about the same issues that they have already discussed several times over the last fourteen years since the first Court decision. This rulemaking has been more than a decade in the development. Moreover, this bill will further perpetuate the current regulatory confusion that leads to unnecessary costs and delays, which has been the subject of much criticism from all stakeholders, and will leave many of our nation’s waters unprotected.

“This week we will also vote on the Energy and Water appropriations bill, which contains a policy rider explicitly prohibiting the Army Corps of Engineering (Corps) from spending any money to develop the very same new Clean Water rule that this bill tells the Corps to write.  From my understanding the Interior appropriations bill is expected to contain a similar rider for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  Republicans try to make it sound as if all they want is for EPA and the Corps to develop rules the right way, but it’s clear that what they really want is to stop these agencies from doing their job at all – no Rules – no clean water.

“Congress must allow the Administration to finish its work and publish the final rule. If we don’t like the result, we have ample authority to fix it.  Congress has the ability to review “major” rules issued by federal agencies before the rules take effect.  In fact, the Congressional Review Act allows Congress to actually disapprove new rules, resulting in the rules having no force or effect.

“If H.R. 1732 were to be enacted, it would only ensure that the confusion continues and that these sources of drinking water remain a serious risk to the public health. That is why I urge my colleagues to oppose this bill. 

Edwards Amendment

“Mr. Chairman, to be fair, several of my own constituents have expressed concern with the substance of the proposed rule. I have listened to their concerns, and I have pressed the Agency witnesses who have appeared before our subcommittee on several critical areas.

“The administration’s answers have been that many of these claims are simply false and we have been assured most of those issues will be addressed in the final rule.

“My amendment simply addresses these concerns and claims, saying that, if any of them prove to be true, then the Secretary and the Administrator are prohibited from issuing any final rule that would bring about these occurrences.

“Instead of using a legislative scalpel, my Republican colleagues have decided to use a meat cleaver. In my amendment, I have tried to address those concerns that I have heard from my constituents and interested parties.

“Under my amendment, the administration cannot expand the scope beyond those water bodies covered prior to the decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court in those two cases, and it cannot be inconsistent with Justices Scalia’s and Kennedy’s  judicial opinions in Rapanos.

“In addition to that, they can’t increase the regulation of ditches. They can’t eliminate any historical statutory or regulatory exemptions for agriculture, which do not exist under the 2003 & 2008 documents. There are questions about ditches under the 2003 & 2008 guidance, and they are interpreted differently in various parts of the country.

“To me, the federal government is using its authority to do the right thing by providing certainty to the regulated community and still protecting human health and our environment.

“However, as a fall back and assurance to the regulated community, I urge the Committee to make my amendment in order that will include clear legislative restrictions on the final rulemaking addressing the range of concerns that have been expressed by stakeholders; though the EPA has made clear in testimony before our Committee, other committees of the House, and earlier this year, in a joint hearing with the Senate. Nonetheless, I offer this amendment as a backstop in the unlikely event that anyone would think differently about regulating streams, ditches, and farmland.”

Click here to watch the video clip of the Rules Committee hearing and Rep. Edwards’ testimony.